Toyota had been the largest auto maker in the world for quite some time , topping the sales charts year after year. And dethroning them from there would not have been there in the wildest dream of any auto maker. But VW had a dream a vision to be the numero uno in the automobile arena by 2015. And now, recent developments show that they have already achieved it by 2009 by producing around 4.4 million cars, 4 lacs more than Toyota, showing the world what they are really capable of.
But, without significant presence in India, the world’s second fastest growing automobile market, sustaining the fantastic performance in the years to come would seem like a pipedream. So it was obvious, one day or the other, VW had to bring to India one such car, which would appeal to the masses and significantly boost its sales volumes and catapult it way ahead of Toyota. Which car should it be? Considering the inclination of the Indian customers towards small cars and their liking for anything that offers them real value for money, and already having a well established performer under its sleeve, with over 2.1 lakh units sold in 2009 in just the top 4 European markets alone, the answer was simple. Bring in the Polo.
Thus, the Volkswagen Polo has set out on its journey to capture the hearts and souls of customers across the country. One look and the car bowls you over by its classy exterior appearance. Never before, was there such a hatch that looks more professional than some of the booted cars seen on the road. Everything is neat and clean, starting from the sharp hexagonal front facia with proportionate and chrome accentuated grilles, long fog lamps and semi peeled back head lamps that give an impression of the car looking at you with its eyes wide open. The wide and low stance gives the feeling of a stable and aerodynamic car and the prominent waistline, 6 spoke alloys and wheel arches gives a muscular and solid feel. The only area of the Polo that did not appeal to my eye was the tamer and plain looking rear, with the tail lamps looking pretty much outdated.
Get in the car and you are greeted by posh looking interiors with a brilliant two tone color combination. The chrome surrounds all around and the well crafted dash board gives a feel of stepping into an awesome luxurious world. Every single element in the car feels as if born to fit in its slot and there are no panel gaps anywhere to be seen. The build quality is outstanding and far beyond the reach of the competition. The audio system with its blue backlight display echoes VW quality and the white back light of the speedometer console gives the feel of luxury sedans of the likes of Corolla. The interiors, though a class apart from the competition, give a familiar feel similar to other VWs and Skodas around. The steering gives a staid feel with the VW logo at its centre. Even the slot in the middle spoke serves in making the steering look better.
Sink into the front seats and you feel securely enveloped all around and the fabric gives a soft soothing feel. VW has put in all it requires to make the driver feel comfy, with the steering adjusting for reach and rake and height adjustable seats. The glove box was so generous you can easily stuff in a huge Webster dictionary and the fabric in the door trims were nice to touch and feel and gave a premium feel all around. But what came as a rude shock was the absence of vanity mirrors, steering audio controls, automatic AC, electric ORVM adjustment, and USB ports, even in the top end Highline, all of which are available in the European Polo. The car looks like having undergone serious feature rationalization to fit in the pockets of the Indian buyers. There is plenty of leg space and head room, both at the front and the rear. But, the seating position at the rear felt a bit upright and can be a bit uncomfortable on long drives. Neither does the hump at the rear floor make the situation any better, making it a horrifying experience for the middle passenger even on short drives.
Having had a feel of the class oozing out of the Polo, it was time for some hardcore dynamic action. Press the button on the key fob and the key pops out of it, eager to bring the engine to life. Slot the key in, turn it around and arghhh. The engine came to life with a huge groan, as if determined to scare everyone around and it suddenly brought me back to reality. It felt as if gradually moving out from a luxury sedan into a luxury tractor. So unrefined the engine was, with tremendously high NVH levels that I could feel each and every thrum of the engine, just like my heartbeat. Race the car in neutral gear, and the car responds like a bull, eagerly looking to throw off the person atop it. Take your foot off the clutch after engaging the gear, only to find your leg banging straight onto the steering wheel. This can be quite distracting and dangerous as well while gear shifting at high speeds. It seems like VW has designed the car keeping the interests of its European customers and not with Indians in mind. Accelerate, and the car moves forward in a calm and composed manner, as if unfazed by the world around.
The ride is good at both low and high speeds and over all unsettled surfaces and feels quite relaxed. The steering feels light at low speeds and taking it around in the city won’t be a tiring experience. The turning radius is also quite less compared to the European version, owing to the wheelbase which has been shortened by 14 mm. But on highways, the car tends to capture the waviness of the road and moves up and down a little more than desired, but, definitely not bad by any standards. The steering though not oozing with feel compared to the likes of Figo or the Swift, feels pretty decent and goes about doing its work without much complaints. Hit hard at the corner and the car feels restricted and tends to reach the limits early and rolls a bit too much causing pretty much discomfort. Lane changes and swift overtaking is also not a pleasurable experience with the car roll tending to lower the confidence of the driver. The interference of the steering with the legs doesn’t support the cause either. Brake performance however is very good with the car coming to a halt in short distance.
|Variant||1.2 L Petrol||1.2L Diesel||1.6L Petrol|
|Engine Capacity||3 cyl, 1198cc||3 cyl, 1199cc||4 cyl,1598cc|
|Power in PS@RPM||75@5400||75@4200||105@5250|
|Torque in NM@RPM||110 @3750||180@2000||153@5750|
|Turning circle radius (m)||4.97||4.97||4.97|
|Ground Clearance (m)||168||168||168|
|Wheel base (mm)||2456||2456||2456|
|Acceleration 0-100 (s)||14.4||14.2||11.1|
|Rear windshield washer||No||No||Yes|
|Average fuel efficiency||17||18||16|
|Tyres Rating||175/70 R14||185/60 R15||185/60 R15|
|Driverseat height adjustment||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Green tinted heat absorbing glass||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Chrome interior trims||No||No||Yes|
|Ex showroom Price Bangalore||522570||582060||692858|
Competition All Specs
|Variant||1.2L highline||Titanium||1.2 LT||Fire Emotion||Mode||Asta GLS|
|Max Power (PS)||75||71||80.5||90||90||80|
|Rear wind shield washer||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Average fuel efficiency||14||14||15||13||16||16|
|Ex showroom Price Mumbai (lacs)||5.82||4.4||4.83||5.8||7.7||5.47|
So, time for the final question. At a price tag of 4.34 lakhs for the Trendline variant and going up to 5.82 lakhs for the Highline variant, is the Polo really a better choice? If you are looking for a car that has superb build quality and executive looks all around with decent ride comfort for four adults, Polo is the car for you. But if you love driving your car and would occasionally try pushing it to its limits, you would be better off in a Swift or a Punto or even the little Figo for that matter.